GREENVILLE, SC – Tonight the Greenville Road Warriors host the Wheeling Nailers in Game Seven of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. The winner will move on to the Eastern Conference final to face the Kalamazoo Wings.
RECAPPING THE ACTION:
4/14/11 – GRW 3 – WHL 4
Greenville came out of the gates firing in Game One and grabbed a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game. Shane Harper banged home his first pro playoff goal off of a set up by Brendan Connolly on a 2-on-1 rush. Wheeling, though, swung momentum in its favor with three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead. Tyler Murovich tied the score at 8:33 of the first and was followed by Joey Haddad’s shorthanded breakaway that beat Chris Beckford-Tseu at 10:45. Marc-Olivier Vallerand chipped a backhander behind Peter Delmas 4:46 into the third period and pulled Greenville back within one. But the deficit grew to two, again, with Murovich’s second of the night 4:56 later. Brendan Connolly netted Greenville’s third of the night 2:22 after Murovich’s score, but Delmas shut the door from there. Beckford-Tseu sustained his first loss of the playoffs with 17 saves on the night. Delmas turned away 33 bids in the win.
4/15/11 – GRW 2 – WHL 1 (OT)
Nic Riopel made his first start since taking the decision in the 6-3 loss to Elmira on April, 6 and out-dueled Peter Delmas in a dramatic, low-scoring affair. For the second straight game Shane Harper gave the Road Warriors a 1-0 lead with a first period goal. The goal at 17:33 came with assists from Brendan Connolly and Andrew Rowe. Riopel had 13 saves through two periods, including two during a Wheeling 5-on-3 power play in the second, and Greenville’s lead remained 1-0 heading into the third. The advantage evaporated 42 seconds into the period when Tim Crowder finished off a 2-on-0 break with his brother Paul. It was his first goal of the playoffs. With neither team able to score again in regulation, the scene shifted to overtime. Greenville had a handful of great scoring chances among its eight shots, but Delmas was a tough nut to crack. Finally, at 11:21, Jimmy Kilpatrick spiked home a rebound for the win and evened the series at one game each.
4/20/11 – GRW 2 – WHL 3
In their first road playoff game since April 6, the Road Warriors could not match Wheeling early and fell behind 2-0 within the opening 10 minutes of the first period. Joey Haddad converted a 3-on-2 rush off of a pass from Jason DeSantis 1:06 into the game and then Alex Grant scored an unassisted marker at 9:52. Wheeling kept the advantage despite Greenville holding a 15-9 shot advantage in the period. Greenville’s offense chipped away at the lead in the second with a power play goal from Chris Clackson as part of its 17-shot barrage on Peter Delmas. Then 1:38 into the third Brendan Connolly netted the tying goal by pouncing on a rebound from a Brad Cole point shot. Brandon DeFazio, however, turned out to be the hero with his backhand shot at 10:47 that beat Nic Riopel high to the glove side. Riopel had 21 saves on the night but sustained the loss.
4/22/11 – GRW 1 – WHL 2
The Road Warriors came out of the gate strong and picked up the game’s first goal for their efforts. Working a strong forecheck, Chris McKelvie and Chris Chappell teamed up to set up Sean Berkstresser in the high slot. His wrist shot beat Peter Delmas 4:40 into the game for Greenville’s 1-0 lead. It was the only lead the Road Warriors held in the game as Andrew Orpik netted the tying score at 9:35 of the first. Orpik batted his own rebound past Chris Beckford-Tseu after the initial shot was blocked. The score stayed tied heading into the second but Mikael Bedard broke that with a wraparound that rattled home 7:13 into the period. Greenville surged with 13 shots in the third period, but Delmas held Greenville at bay and Wheeling earned the one-goal win.
4/23/11 – GRW 5 – WHL 1
Greenville asserted itself early and often in the first period as the Road Warriors took control in Game Five. Shane Harper tipped in a Marc-Andre Bourdon point shot 1:36 into the first period to establish a 1-0 Greenville lead. The lead grew through the first half of the frame thanks to a 5-on-3 power play goal from Brandon Wong at 6:34 and a four-on-four goal from Justin Bowers at 10:04. Before the frame ended Mikael Bedard pulled Wheeling with two with his second goal in as many games at 16:38. That was as close as the Nailers would get, though, as Marc-Olivier Vallerand (5:57) and Harper (9:17) notched second period scores to stretch the lead to 5-1. Nic Riopel blanked Wheeling in the second and third periods with 22 combined saves and earned his third win of the playoffs.
4/26/11 – GRW 6 – WHL 3
The Road Warriors used the same pattern as in Game Four and came away with the victory that forced Game Seven. A three-goal first period, which included two power play goals, allowed Greenville to build a lead it would not relinquish. Andrew Carroll (4:56) and Andrew Rowe (12:25) registered the power play scores while Brendan Connolly potted his first of the night at even strength 6:32 into the game. That goal chased Wheeling starter Peter Delmas and left Patrick Killeen to finish the game. Connolly touched him up for a goal in the second, but a pair of goals by Doug Rogers 29 seconds apart left Wheeling down by two heading into the third. There the Road Warriors picked up scores by Chris McKelvie and Marc-Olivier Vallerand to keep their distance from Wheeling despite Dan Henningson’s tally at 16:07. Nic Riopel won his fourth game of the playoffs with 27 saves.
WHAT’S ON TAP FOR TONIGHT:
The Road Warriors and Nailers meet tonight in Game Seven of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. The Road Warriors brought the series here with a 6-3 victory last night. The Road Warriors are looking to take advantage of the final game on home ice to close out the series. They are 4-1-0 at the BI-LO Center in the playoffs and have held opponents to an average of 1.8 goals per game. Wheeling, meanwhile, has lost once the road in regulation in the playoffs. This series has been tight with four of six games decided by one goal, three winning goals scored in the third period or later, and an average winning margin of 1.83.
Tonight is the 22nd Game Seven in the history of the ECHL and the 10th series in the history of the league, out of 39, to have gone to a seventh game after one team took a 3-1 advantage. This is the Road Warriors’ first ever game seven, but for head coach Dean Stork it is his sixth game seven in five seasons behind the bench. In his four seasons as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Stork helped the club to a 4-1 record in game sevens. He was also 3-1 as a player in game sevens. Wheeling is playing its second game seven in team history. Its first was a double overtime loss, 2-1, to the Cincinnati Cyclones in the 2009 North Division semifinal.
– Greenville’s two power play goals last night were the first scored at the BI-LO Center in the playoffs.
– The Road Warriors have scored the first goal in seven of their 10 playoff games so far. They are 5-2-0 in those games.
– Shane Harper has nine goals in his last 13 games dating back to March 31, 2011 vs. Gwinnett.
– Nic Riopel has the best GAA (2.28) and SVP (.920) of any rookie goalie still playing in the playoffs.
– Only Marc-Olivier Vallerand (80) has played more combined regular season and playoff games than T.J. Reynolds’ 79. The Road Warriors are 3-0-0 in games Reynolds has missed (each due to suspension).
The Road Warriors are hosting their pre-game block party tonight starting at 5:00 p.m. on the plaza at the Charter Business Entrance. There will be live music from Ragged Orchids, half-priced beer for the adults, and plenty of activities for the kids. Upstate students, kindergarten through college, can purchase gold-level walk up tickets for $7 at the BI-LO Center Box Office, and group discount tickets are available for groups of five or more. Call 864-674-PUCK (7825) to book your group.